Naturally, with the world reacting to COVID-19 by going into what is tantamount to a lockdown, retailers have to embrace eCommerce and other sales methods if they wish to continue to ply their trades successfully. Some countries already had thriving online shopping economies prior to the pandemic, while others are playing catch-up as they tap into this exponentially expanding sector. Globally, about 75% of 16 to 64-year-olds purchase something online every month, with countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and Poland ranking highest in the adoption of eCommerce.

So, while eCommerce in Thailand was well-established pre-COVID-19, the restriction of movement laws implemented to combat the infection has massively increased the demand. But, have the nature of Thailand’s online shopping habits changed too? We take a look at the impact of the pandemic on eCommerce in Thailand. 

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Online giants 

Lazada, Shopee and JD Central are three of the most prominent players in the Southeast Asian market and are extremely popular in Thailand. These shopping platforms form a significant part of the overall picture when examining online sales in the country. 

As the virus hit Thailand, Lazada noticed an immediate increase in traffic to its website and recorded a 100% increase in sales from mid-March to mid-April

In an interview to ChannelNewsAsia, Shopee Thailand said that their traffic and transaction volumes during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak are “robust” with growing demands for health and personal hygiene-related products.

JD Central has witnessed a three-fold growth in sales with a 200% sales growth during its first sales campaign in Q1 of 2020 as compared to the same period last year.

Changes in shopping habits

Before COVID-19, the most popular online shopping sectors were travel, technology including mobile phones and clothing and accessories, particularly more high-end or work clothes. In 2018, travel products raked in $4.140 billion USD, with technology the 2nd biggest earner at $1.043 billion USD. Clothing and beauty products were 3rd in the online spend league table for the country, coining it in at $908 million USD for the year. 

Now, due to travel restrictions, these products are barely moving. With nowhere to go and people working from home, the focus of clothes shopping has shifted to loungewear and nightwear. At the same time, personal hygiene products and kitchenware have also become more popular than ever. 

Despite more people working from home or trying to find means of staying entertained while stuck indoors, due to financial instability in family budgets, electronics sales have taken a hit. Sales of smartphones may have stagnated somewhat, but retailers hope that this will lift again as things return to normal and with the unrolling of 5G and the desire to upgrade to compatible phones.

This shift away from the traditional online products also included a massive upswing in the numbers of people purchasing groceries online. Previously online grocery shopping was only worth 1% of the overall market, but this had started to slowly change in 2019 where there was a 30% growth as compared to the year before. Now, with COVID-19 making going to the supermarket less desirable, this should proliferate in 2020.

The online hotcakes

As stated above, eCommerce in Thailand has undergone somewhat of a metamorphosis in the past few months. Luxury or goods not deemed as essential-have taken a hard hit with the focus shifting to products necessary for survival, wellbeing and health

The biggest selling item online in the country during these virus impacted days has been face masks with an increase of a stunning 2,000% as compared to 2019. The price has also shot up due to unscrupulous retailers profiting from fear. In 2019, a packet of 50 masks cost around 46 THB ($1.44 USD). Now, the same box of masks can cost anywhere between 800 THB ($25 USD) and 1200 THB ($37.63 USD), yet people are still buying them. However, the government has now introduced measures to limit the cost of face masks to 2.50 THB ($0.08 USD) each. 

With health and hygiene becoming priorities during the crisis, hand sanitizers were also in high demand online as bricks and mortar stores started running out of supplies. An increase of around 8,000% occurred as people stocked up on these products. The demand for instant noodles and canned fish also increased by 84% and 19% respectively on online shopping platforms. 

Thailand’s eCommerce market was already thriving before this pandemic made it more of a necessity than a choice. It is expected that the online shopping industry will continue to grow and it would be interesting to see how the trends evolve in a post-pandemic world.